From my good friend and business partner in Canada –
I have just returned from the Food and Consumer Products of Canada 2012 CEO Executive Conference, and I must say, what a great location in Northern Ontario and what an even better line up of speakers! There were 175 of Canada’s most influential leaders in the food and consumer products industry in the room. I would like to share a highlight with you that I thought was very interesting.
One of the most dynamic speakers was Peter Sheahan; CEO ChangeLabs, author and recognized speaker on innovation and change. Peter set out to engage the group on the topic of leadership and innovation. The crowd’s reaction to his opening monologue is what I found to be most revealing. As Peter began his presentation he enthusiastically worked the crowd at floor level, pacing through the tables to get the audience fired up about innovation. He was asking repeatedly… if we “felt it”? Specifically, did we feel an inflection point coming in our industry? Did we sense it? Did we think something big was just around the corner? Was their some impending innovation that would drastically change the playing field?
Well… this is where it got interesting. The only thing impending in that crowd was the “impending doom” of some innovation that would change the playing field for the food and consumer retail market! I looked around the room for someone to respond and jump on the innovation bandwagon. What I saw was quite different. I saw every thing from pure terror to outright dismissal and denial. I surmise the collective thought was “This guy is nuts!” Peter definitely had us squirming in our seats. Innovation that would significantly change the playing field? How could this be possible? We’ve been doing it like this forever! I didn’t see this reaction coming, but luckily it was all part of Peter’s master plan. He spent the rest of his hour showing us example after example of industries completely redefined by innovation, and sharing some great insight into the possible future of retail. The answer to his original question, “Do we see it coming?” brings into question the reality of how this cannot be accomplished without flexible processes and retail collaboration, both of which remain extremely elusive for most.
I know FCPC has had Supply Chain Collaboration on their agenda for years. As the perfect forum for these types of conversations, FCPC has sponsored Supply Chain Symposiums on this very topic, aiming to get to the next level of innovative partnerships.
So why such a struggle? Why are the players so adverse to the collaboration concept? If you ask them, they will take you directly into the weeds, with hidden agendas, transportation tariffs, listing fees, lack of trust, and everyone thinking they would get the short end of the deal. What’s more, any conversation with the retail customer leaves them feeling “exposed” to say the least.
Could it be possible that some of that fear starts with a lack of confidence in their processes? That the silo’s across their internal supply chain network are so entrenched, and communication so difficult, that adding a collaboration partner would be so complex they just wouldn’t know where to begin?
So, do you “feel it,” an impending inflection point in your industry? If so, how will you get in front of it? Are your processes nimble enough to absorb the impact of fast growth that innovation can spark? Or is there a lot of “white space” between the functional silos of your organization? More importantly, do you know what to do about it?
Many companies have realized that pursuing Operational Excellence throughout their supply chain and supporting business processes helped them get out in front of the inflection point. Many of those companies have a trusted partner who helped guide them through that uncomfortable change. We have many experienced people in our organization that have lived through innovation changing the playing field. Our experiences with Motorola, Allied Signal, GE, Proctor & Gamble and Kraft Foods come to mind. We welcome you to share what has worked for you in your organizations.